Viewed from an upper level in one of Charlotte’s glitzy skyscrapers, the Uptown roofs below resemble an ever-changing sea. There is new construction everywhere – high-, mid- and low-rise. Moreover, a good many of those roofs represent homes: penthouses, condominiums, apartments and even single-family homes.
Uptown is one of the city’s fastest-growing areas, with 10,000 residents now and perhaps double that in another five years. In fact, there is so much housing growth that the Multiple Listing Service has given Uptown its own designation: Area 99.
Hundreds of dining establishments and late-night bars attract the urban crowd – a figure that is steadily increasing.
As the numbers grow, so do the amenities that add so much to life. Some Uptown residents find so much here to entertain them that they park their cars on Friday and don’t move them the entire weekend. They’re within walking distance of much of the city’s cultural and entertainment venues, with more headed their way.
Block-long, massive Bank of America Stadium anchors Uptown on the southwest end. Snarling panther statues outside the gates hint at the passions inside as the Carolina Panthers take on NFL opponents.
On the other side of Uptown, the new Charlotte Arena is home to the NBA expansion team Charlotte Bobcats. The growing First Ward neighborhood, once the site of numerous parking lots, has seen significant changes in recent years, in part due to the construction of the new arena.
The aptly-named Courtside, a 17-story condominium high-rise in First Ward at the corner of Sixth and Caldwell, will feature 7,500 square feet of retail and restaurants at the street level. Across from the arena, Millennium Square will include a movie theater, restaurants and shops. The city’s cultural district, dubbed North End, extends from the center’s front door southward to the center of town: Independence Square, at Tryon and Trade streets.
This district includes Discovery Place science museum, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library, North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, Spirit Square, the Mint Museum of Craft + Design, the McColl Center for Visual Art and a handful of private art galleries. The area also includes the Levine Museum of the New South and the new $40 million ImaginON, an ambitious project of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library and Children’s Theatre that includes a youth library, classrooms, technology center, early childhood reading center, performance stages and a craft shop.
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte is planning a $1 billion urban village in First Ward with classroom space as well as retail, entertainment and residential units.
Opportunities to eat, drink, and be entertained abound in Uptown. The number and variety of Uptown restaurants keep growing, with fine dining, down-home Southern standbys and ethnic cuisine all part of the mix.
Prefer to dine on your rooftop terrace or by your urban window? Reid’s Fine Foods at Seventh Street Station parking garage supplies Uptown kitchens. In summer, you can supplement the fare with farm-fresh produce from the Center City Green Market in the Station’s plaza.
Recently restored, the Charlotte trolley can be heard clanging from the Atherton Mill in South End up to Ninth Street in Uptown. The #85 car was built at the Dilworth Trolley Barn in 1927 and is the only original electric trolley car still in operation. Three new cars joined the original in 2004 to provide trolley rides seven days a week.
The current route was rebuilt to accommodate the light rail system, which will share the trolley corridor. The system, which runs through the Charlotte Convention Center and the Westin Hotel, will link Charlotte to outlying towns beginning in Spring 2007. Anticipation for the light rail system has caused property values to skyrocket along the proposed route.
For a long time, Fourth Ward was the only residential pocket in what was the concrete expanse of Uptown. The turn-of-the-century homes in this quaint quadrant between North Tryon and West Trade streets had fallen into disrepair but were restored by determined homeowners and the bank that became Bank of America.
Fourth Ward is now one of the most charming spots in the city with its sidewalks and street lamps, its cozy front porches and Fourth Ward Park.
A new condominium community, The Citadin at Fourth Ward Square, covers the entire block between Eighth and Ninth streets on North Graham. With retail on the street level, The Citadel is composed of five buildings ranging from six to 10 stories.
Even Elmwood Cemetery, the historic green spot separating Fourth Ward from Third Ward, is getting a facelift as it plays host to strollers and joggers.
Fifth and Poplar, a 305-unit mix of penthouses, condominiums and town homes, offers a number of amenities, including a concierge service, state-of-the-art fitness center, central courtyard and its very own Harris Teeter.
In Third Ward, Uptown’s southwest quadrant, small, renovated homes mix with new condominiums and apartments. It’s flanked on its southern side by Bank of America Stadium, the Panthers’ practice field and on its northern side by West Trade and Gateway Village – Bank of America’s mammoth new mix of homes, retail and office space that also houses Johnson & Wales University students. The Village stretches along five blocks of West Trade and also has a YMCA. Gateway Lofts and Post Gateway Place near Trade Street add hundreds of apartments to Uptown.
The last piece of the Uptown residential puzzle began with The Ratcliffe on the Green, an upscale condominium high-rise in Second Ward, an area in the southeast quadrant of Uptown that had been occupied mostly by government buildings. The luxurious Ratcliffe offers an interactive park with fish fountains and landscaped walkways and is surrounded by 60,000 square feet of retail and office space. The Green, a 1.5-acre park built over an underground parking deck, is a popular gathering spot during the week, and is converted into an ice skating rink during the winter months.
Lately, it seems that development of Uptown high-rises is happening everywhere. A half-dozen new buildings are in the works and are expected to open by 2008.
At the site of the old Charlotte Convention Center in Second Ward, EpiCentre will soon be the second-tallest tower in Uptown with 53 stories and more than 400 luxury rental units.
Another high-rise, The Vue, will open in 2008 with 50 stories and 411 units ranging between $190,000 and $4 million. The Vue will be located at Fifth and Pine in Fourth Ward.
At Fifth and Church, Avenue will offer one- and two-bedroom condos with floor-to-ceiling windows, a pool and sundeck when in opens in early 2007. At 36 stories, Avenue’s units range from the $170s to the $320s.
At Poplar, Mint and Trade streets, the 28-story Trademark features five levels of office, retail and restaurant space, 192 residential units as well as a pool terrace, exercise room and community facilities.
Looking for a classy Park Avenue penthouse or Manhattan-style loft? The condominium high-rise called The Park will rise 21 stories above Third and Caldwell streets. Its verdant rooftop will include gardens, sitting areas, a walking trail, a pool and a small forest of trees. The Park is slated to open in late 2006.
At 13 stories, 230 South Tryon offers 110 studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units as well as several penthouses ranging between $150,000 and $1.5 million. 230 South Tryon is scheduled to open in the summer of 2006.
The excitement that attracts people to Uptown home ownership is evident also in commercial life. The Westin Hotel on Stonewall and College streets opened in 2003, offering a unique new building for the Charlotte skyline. With 700 rooms, the hotel is right across from the Charlotte Convention Center and features a bar, restaurant and 44,000 square feet of meeting space.
Bank of America’s new building, The Hearst Tower on North Tryon Street soars 46 stories, making it the city’s second tallest building after the Bank of America tower, which rises above all others at 60 stories. Across Tryon, the 30-story IJL Financial Center, which was built in 1996, shares similar window designs and exterior colors as the Hearst Tower. Three Wachovia Center ascends 32 stories on South Tryon, and a 27-story tower at 300 S. Tryon includes a front courtyard and outdoor seating and dining.
It’s all happening within a relatively small area – the blocks radiating outward from the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets. For the city at large, that’s the center of action.